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Costa Rica President Arias Acts to Protect Leatherback National Park

Yesterday, Costa Rica’s Federal Register (el Diario Oficial La Gaceta, #194) published a decree (nacion91007>32) signed by President Oscar Arias which authorizes the Environmental Ministry (MINAE) to begin the administrative proceedings to expropriate the properties within Las Baulas National Marine Park in Guanacaste.

This park includes the two most important nesting beaches for the leatherback turtle in the eastern Pacific, Playa Grande and Playa Langosta, and its protection is crucial to ensuring the survival of this Critically Endangered species.

Las Baulas National Marine Park was created by Presidential Decree in 1991 before being signed into law in 1995, and includes a strip of land 125 meters inland of the high tide line that is required to be protected from development. Despite of investors’ claims, the Procuraduría General de la República (C444-2005) has affirmed since 2005 that the land in question is a part of the National Park and the government should proceed with expropriation.

Up until now, the process of expropriation had been riled in controversy and had stagnated with only 0.22% of properties previously purchased by the Government.

On September 14, the Costa Rican Sea Turtle Network published a full-page ad calling upon President Arias to resume the expropriations and seeking support from the general public for this cause. In the last 8 months, more than 7,500 Costa Ricans, 1,500 foreigners, and 200 scientific experts have petitioned President Arias to proceed with the expropriations.

Although MINAE eventually approved the 32 expropriation decrees, President Arias returned them without signature, and without further explanation, on September 21, 2007.

On September 26, a group of more than 100 people, led by a dancing individual dressed in a leatherback coastume, marched in protest from MINAE headquarters to the Casa Presidencial, urging the president to sign the decrees.

Hours later, President Arias signed the 32 decrees ordering the expropriation of properties within Las Baulas National Marine Park.

For now, the leatherback can nest peacefully given that Costa Rica will ensure the ecological integrity of this critically important nesting beach.

For more information: visit www.redtortugasmarinascr.org

And contact:
Randall Arauz. PRETOMA – TIR. Phone (506) 241 5227; email rarauz@racsa.co.cr

Wagner Quirós. Co-chair, Costa Rican Sea Turtle Conservation Network. Phone (506) 837-8782; email wagner@isvonline.com

Didiher Chacón. ANAI-WIDECAST, Phone (506) 224-3570; FAX (506) 253-7524; email tortugas@racsa.co.cr

Belinda Dick. Technical Advisor of the Inter-American Convention for the Conservation and Protection of Sea Turtles. Phone (506) 835 7331; email leatherbacks@aol.com

Claudio Quesada. Asociación ANAI. Phone (506) 818-2543; email claudioq@anaicr.org

Rolando Castro. CEDARENA. Centro de Derecho Ambiental para los Recursos_Naturales. Phone (506) 283-7080; email rcastro@cedarena.org